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billyblancoNYC
June 14th, 2005, 11:01 AM
Mayor unveils Fort Totten park

BY ROBERT POLNER AND DAN JANISON
STAFF WRITERS

June 13, 2005, 6:37 PM EDT

Just in time for both his re-election race and the coming start of summer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Monday announced the opening of a 49.5-acre shoreline park within Fort Totten in Bayside.

The Civil War-era Army base overlooking Long Island Sound was transferred from the federal government to the city for use as a public park last year.

"Today we open another great waterfront park for New Yorkers," Bloomberg said, surrounded by local elected officials. The park contains 11 historic buildings, a 13-acre parade ground with soccer fields, and pathways with views of the water. It also contains a Civil War-era battery.

Performances of Shakespeare's plays and musical concerts, as well as sports leagues will be hosted on the greensward, and the Flushing YMCA's outdoor pool within the park will be open "several days a week," according to the mayor's announcement.

Elected officials jostled to share the credit at a brief ceremony.

"We've been working more than 20 years for this moment," said U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates). "Transforming Fort Totten into a sprawling public park has been a vision I've had since 1980. ... It's finally happening."

The Bloomberg administration provided more than $12 million from the mayor's executive budget to fund the maintenance and improvement of the park, including repairing the seawall, demolishing aging townhouses on the north end and developing that area into a light-use recreation area. The Old Willet's Farmhouse, a historic site, is to be stabilized with a $65,000 public investment.

The renovation of Fort Totten's battery began last year, and will be completed this summer, funded with state, Queens Borough Hall and City Council member grants.

The fort was named after General Joseph Totten after his death in a Civil War battle in Virginia. Soon after its completion, the fort became obsolete as a bullwark after rapid advances in artillery during the war.

Over the next century, it housed hospital care and engineering schools.

Since 1969 it has been home to the U.S. Army Reserves, and 77 acres of the 147-acre fort will continue to be used by the reserves and the city fire department.